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6 corrections, most recently by C.Scheikowski - Show corrections

AUSTRALIAN MILITARY

LEGISLATION.

As it is proposed under the Defence Bill, which was yesterday placed before the Federal Legis- lature, to assimilate the military law of the various States, it may not be uninteresting to review briefly the position in which that law stands at

the present time.

In New South Wales the military are divided into regular (or as popularly termed "perma- nent "), partially-paid, and volunteer. The regular forces came into existence in 1871, under the Naval and Military Forces Act. By that   statute the naval and military forces of this State are made subject to the Mutiny Act,     Articles of War, and other enactments for the government of the Imperial army. The Mutiny Act and Articles of War were susperseded in 1879 by the Army Discipline Act, afterwards the Army Act and Regulations, but there has been a de-

cision by the New South Wales Supreme Court that this legsisation must be held to be com- prised within the scope of our local statute. Under this also the Governor is empowered to     assemble courts-martial and confirm or disallow the findings or sentences thereof, and courts of in-   quiry, etc., may be held under the regulations which   govern such in the Imperial Service. It is plain, therefore, that the regular military   forces of this State are in exactly the same position as regards law, discipline, and interior economy as the Imperial army. The original framers of the Act (in which no doubt the saga- cious Sir James Martin took a large share) proba- bly considered that it was much better in estab- lishing a regular military service to adopt the Im- perial regulations in their integrity rather than attempt to create original legislation of a crude nature on so difficult a subject. By taking the former course, also, they not only introduced a system which had stood the test of ages, but they gave the New South Wales military the benefit of the King's regulations and all the Imperial text- books and precedents bearing upon military law and discipline.

The partially-paid forces have no other statute  

to guide them than the Volunteer Act of 1867, the purport of which, however, has been so amended by regulations that it is no exaggeration to say that only a shadow of the original enact- ment now remains. It is, indeed, questionable whether many of these, if tested out would not prove to be ultra vires under section 50, which provides that regulations may be made by the Executive Council, " provided that they are not inconsistent " with the Act. Under these pro-  

visions the partially-paid forces receive a small payment proportionate to rank, and conditional upon efficiency as defined by orders annually issued under the authority of the Executive Council.

The members of the force are also liable to fines for misconduct and to summary dismissal. The flaw in the system is that there is no means of preventing a man evading service by resignation ; as any volunteer under the statute may at any time quit his corps by giving 14 days' notice and   returning all arms equipment, &c. He is also liable in that case to pay any money due by him to the corps.

What are known us purely volunteer companies are those which now solely represent the condition of volunteering when the Act was passed. That is to say the members give their services gratuitously, but receive an annual capitation allowance for   efficiency, which is applied towards uniforms. They are also provided with arms, accoutrements,

and military instruction.

The Victorian system consists like our own of permanent, partially-paid, and volunteers. They are, however, organised under what is known as the Discipline Act passed originally in 1881. The men of the permanent forces (chiefly Royal Aus- tralian Artillery) are enlisted for five years con- tinuous service with the option of re-enlisting for another term under improved conditions. They are not subject to military law in the same sense that the New South Wales regulars are. There are certain punishments to which the men are   liable, and under circumstances a court of a military nature may be held. As a rule, however, a soldier   who gives trouble is summarily dismissed so that the incentive to good conduct is the proba- bility of dismissal in ease of transgression, but   of course this opens an easy road to a man who     desires his discharge without expense. Military economy as understood in the Royal Australian Artillery of New South Wales does not exist ;

everything is governed by local regulation, with the result that the training from a soldierly point of view has been distinctly inferior.

The partially-paid men are styled militia, and are enrolled for a fixed period of service, during   which time the militia man may be dealt with for misconduct, and cannot leave the service except upon payment of compensation, equivalent to buying his discharge, the amount varying accord- ing to the term of service. Upon the whole this   branch may be said to be upon a more satisfactory basis than our own partially paid men, because (as has already been seen) the latter have not been   enlisted under a suitably-drawn Act, but under   one which is practically obsolete through the medium of regulations changing its whole original   tenor and scope. The Victorian volunteer service is upon a system similar to that of New South

Wales.  

In Queensland the forces consist of the Royal

Australian Artillery, the "Defence Forces," and      

the volunteers. The permanent and partially paid forces are (as in Victoria) enrolled under local   legislation, known us the " Defence Acts," passed in the years 1881 and 1886 ; and all the male population between the ages of 18 and 60, in case        

of a national emergency, are, with certain excep-   tions, liable to conscription, the number required  

to be raised being obtained by ballot from the

total liable. The Permanent Artillery are main-  

turned under the provisions of the Defence Act, somewhat as in Victoria, with suitable Orders under which it is provided that the " King's Regulations shall be accepted as the guide to military procedure. Under certain circumstances   also courts may be assembled. It is, in fact, an attempt to adopt the imperial system, but without following it in its intregrity. The " Defence Forces " are partially paid, upon exactly the system that prevails in New South Wales. The volunteers are also upon the same basis as those   in this State. There is a provision that all branches of the service are to be subject to the Army Act when in uniform, but how this is to be enforced does not appear.

In South Australia there is a "Fixed Defence " and a '"Field Force," the former consisting of a   small division of regular artillery, embodied under local enactment, and the latter of unpaid volunteers. In Western Australia and Tasmania   the forces are similarly composed, the regular branches being very small.

Upon the whole the system of partial payment   has worked very well, provided such payment be not unreasonably small. When it has been reduced (as it was in this State about ten years ago) the force has suffered severely, because     the inducement to a desirable class of men to join and remain in the service having become insuffi- cient, the various regiments lost their good person- nel and were recruited usually from mere lads of inadequate physique and stamina, and even these did not remain long. Thus the companies were in a perpetual transition state to the great sacrifice of efficiency. When the pay is reasonably good it is found that an excellent class of recruits can be obtained, and that they will manifest no disinclination to con- tinue their service or to submit to fairly stringent discipline—a not unfrequent source of weakness with volunteers. The system of partial payment also admits of summary punishment for minor irregularities, in the shape of fines to be de-

ducted from the offender's pay. It also offers a   premium to efficiency.  

The position in which the military forces of Australia now stand as regards legislation is this

—The whole army has, by the Constitution Act, been brought under the control of the Federal Government, and removed from that of the State Governments. The Federal Government how- over, has no statute which enables it to adminis-

ter this large and important department, compris- ing within itself so many subdivisions. On the other hand, the various military statutes of the different States have never been repealed, and are therefore still valid except so far is relates to the control being vested in the Federal Govern-  

ment. Thus the military of each State have so far been compelled to continue in the same groove as before, with regard to administration ; and at the same time all legal procedure is involved in a degree of uncertainty as regards its validity. It is not possible to effect so much as the transfer of an officer from one State to another without an order of the Executive Council.

The task before the Federal Government is to   fuse the various systems into one harmonious whole, suitable to the conditions of service in Australia, and calculated to produce the highest possible efficiency. The militia system of Great   Britain, resting mainly upon 28 days' annual con- tinuous training, cannot be adopted in Australia   for many obvious reasons which it is unnecessary to dwell upon. It is undeniable, however, that a good militia must be the backbone of the Common-

wealth military system, in which the " perma- nent " force will always be small, little more

indeed than a nucleus of trained experts.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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